Effects of mercuric chloride on spatial memory deficit-induced by beta-amyloid and evaluation of mitochondrial function markers in the hippocampus of rats
Mercury is a highly poisonous heavy metal abundantly found in the environment in its inorganic form. Although evidence have been provided about the possible role of inorganic mercury in the pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD), its effect on cognitive and mitochondrial functions have not yet been completely understood. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of the chronic exposure to mercuric chloride (0.4, 0.8 and 1.6 mg kg−1 per day for 3 weeks) through drinking water (by gavage) on spatial learning and memory and hippocampal mitochondrial function in beta-amyloid treated rats (1 μg per μL per side, intrahippocampally). The acquisition and retention of spatial memory were evaluated by the Morris water maze (MWM) test. Several parameters of hippocampal mitochondrial function were also measured. The results indicated that mercury impaired spatial learning and memory as well as aggravated Aβ-induced memory impairments in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, mercury exposure resulted in a significant increase in ROS generation, MMP collapse, mitochondrial swelling, glutathione oxidation, lipid peroxidation, and outer membrane damage. In addition, a reduced cytochrome c oxidase (complex IV) activity and elevated ADP/ATP ratio in the rats' hippocampus was also observed. The findings of the current study revealed that chronic mercury exposure led to mitochondrial dysfunction, which resulted in spatial memory impairments. The results also showed that mercury can exacerbate the toxic effects of Aβ on spatial memory and hippocampal mitochondrial function.